Obituary: Frank “Typhoon” Tyson, cricket player

Frank 'Typhoon' Tyson: One of English cricket's all-time greatest players known for his fast bowling. Picture: Getty
Frank 'Typhoon' Tyson: One of English cricket's all-time greatest players known for his fast bowling. Picture: Getty
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Born: 6 June, 1930, in Farnworth, Lancashire. Died: 27 September, 2015, in the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia, aged 85

F rank Tyson, one of England’s all-time cricket greats, has died aged 85. A lethally fast bowler, his place in the annals of cricket’s “hall of fame” was secured after his outstanding performance in the Ashes series for England in Australia in 1954/5 when, according to one commentator, “he cut through the batsmen’s defence like a knife through butter”. His total of 28 wickets at an average of 20.83 was key to England regaining the Ashes for the first time in Australia for 22 years, since the infamous Bodyline Tests.

Yet the opening Test in Brisbane gave little hint of what was to come as the tourists were comprehensively beaten, Tyson only managing 1 for 160. There in the tropical heat, as his long run-up of 38 yards was exhausting, he occasionally tried a shorter run with no apparent loss of speed.

In the next match against Victoria in Melbourne, Tyson bowled off the shortened run-up successfully, recording six for 68.

In the second Test in Sydney, he continued this to great effect, securing ten for 130, a huge contribution to England’s win. Wisden described his approach as “beginning with six shuffling steps and finishing with ten deliberate raking strides”.

Tyson achieved this despite being flattened by a bouncer from Lindwall requiring him to be X-rayed. As he lay on the ground semi-conscious, he heard teammate Bill Edrich say to the Australian bowler: “God, you’ve killed him, Lindy.”

In the third Test at Melbourne, watched by a total of 300,270 spectators, he recorded his best ever Test figures of seven for 27 on the final day, which inspired England to an 128-run victory.

Knowledgeable observers reckoned that Tyson’s bowling there and in the previous Test was the fastest ever seen, leading to the press nicknaming him the “Typhoon”. In the fourth Test at Adelaide, Tyson again delivered, this time notching six for 130 for England to secure the Ashes. It had been a bravura performance by Tyson and a career-defining episode.

Between 1954 and 1959 he played 17 Tests, collecting 76 wickets at an average of 18.56, having made his debut against Pakistan.

Undoubtedly he would have won more caps had he been injured less. Given the demands on his body to achieve that deadly pace, it was not surprising he was prone to injury. As he himself wrote: “It is a vicious, demanding science.”

He was brought up in a small council house in the village of Middleton near Manchester with his parents and older brother David. His father was a foreman bleacher in the local works and there were no cricketing antecedents in the family.

His first cricket was played on an area of waste ground behind his house and soon the game captivated him, his hero being fast bowler Harold Larwood.

At the local Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, he shone at football and cricket and, aged 15, made his debut for the local cricket club’s 1st X1, playing in the competitive Central Lancashire League.

National service in the Signals regiment afforded him a lot of time to play including a game against Yorkshire, who fielded Fred Trueman and Brian Close.

As a cricket-mad lad from Lancashire, his dream was to play for the county, but one game in the 2nd X1 was all he managed. He was spotted by a Northamptonshire coach playing for Knypersley, a North Staffs League team, in a special match against a Commonwealth select and offered terms which he was delighted to accept.

He spent his whole county career with Northants. In a foreword to their centenary history, Tyson wrote: “There have undoubtedly been better cricketers than me who will have made more money out of it than me. But not one player has derived more enjoyment than me out of Northants cricket.”

He studied English literature at Durham University, his father having insisted he should have a qualification in case a career in cricket failed. The demands of cricket and education often clashed, and as a result he initially failed his degree exams, requiring him to take his books with him on the Ashes tour to Australia.

Reputedly, he did not “sledge” opponents but instead quoted Wordsworth and Chaucer at them. He used to say that sledging “is a waste of energy, but you can give batsmen a glare though!”

When he retired from playing in 1960, he followed in the footsteps of boyhood hero Larwood and emigrated to Australia. There he married Ursule Miels from Melbourne, where the couple set up home. He taught at the city’s Carey Baptist Grammar School and coached the cricket team which at one time included Graham Yallop, future Australian captain.

He became involved in the Victorian coaching system and from 1975 was full-time director of coaching. He also spent periods coaching in what was then Bombay and commentating on radio and TV. Victoria’s cricket chief executive, Tony Dodemaide, stated: “Frank was one of the greats of the game and pioneered our successful ‘coaching the coaches’ programme. He encouraged countless young cricketers and was truly inspirational.”

The debate as to who is the fastest of the fast men will endure. For his part, Tyson, typically measured, stated: “There have been better fast bowlers but if the rhythm was there, then it was a case of ‘watch out, batsmen’.”

He is survived by his wife, son Philip, daughters Anna and Sara and eight grandchildren.